SMU beats No. 17 UConn 74-65
The first victory over a ranked opponent since December 2003 before the first campus sellout since December 2001 had second-year SMU coach Larry Brown feeling like he can boast the nation's best college basketball product.
''I don't think any other program can think they have more than us,'' Brown said after his Mustangs, playing their first home game as a member of the American Athletic Conference, stunned No. 17 Connecticut 74-65 before an overflow crowd in the debut of the refurbished Moody Coliseum. ''We're in a great league. Got a great school. A great city.''
Nic Moore scored 19 of his game-high 20 points in the first half, and Nick Russell picked up the slack by adding with 11 of his 14 points in the second half for SMU (11-3, 1-1). Brown said Russell missed only one shot after he admonished him for thinking too much.
''He shot it, and I think that got us a lot more confidence,'' the Naismith Hall of Famer said.
As the school completed $47 million of renovations on its 57-year-old gym that officially seats 7,000, SMU played six non-conference home games an hour from campus in a suburban civic center.
Once victory was in hand during Saturday's closing moments, much of the 7,166 in attendance stood and chanted Brown's name. Among his former players on hand was Dikembe Mutombo.
''I feel like the fans appreciated what we did here,'' Russell said. ''I feel like every game will be a big game. Every game will be a packed crowd ready to see good basketball, and that's what we'll try to give them.''
UConn (11-3, 0-2) headed home following a trip that began with a four-point loss to new AAC-member Houston on New Year's Eve. The good news for coach Kevin Ollie is he recognizes his team's issues - rebounding, pressuring the ball, winning 50-50 balls. The bad news is Ollie is searching for solutions.
''We've got to come together,'' said Ollie, whose 13-year NBA career included playing for Brown on the 2000-01 Eastern champion Philadelphia 76ers. ''We've got to go back to the drawing board, try to beat Harvard (at home on Wednesday). We've got to do something quick.''
SMU shot 47.2 percent, including 53.6 percent during the second half when it outscored the Huskies 42-32. The Mustangs outrebounded UConn 37-29.
Ryan Boatright had 15 points for the Huskies while Shabazz Napier and Lasan Kromah had 12 points each and DeAndre Daniels added 11.
Boatright scored nine points in the first half but picked up his second and third fouls early in the second half and went to the bench.
Napier, coming off a 27-point performance at Houston, was held to two points and one field goal attempt in the first half.
SMU went ahead 47-41 on a bank shot by Ben Moore with 11:36 left. The Mustangs went on a 6-1 run to go up 63-51 with 4:04 left.
SMU came into the game ranked second nationally in field goal defense (35.7 percent) and held UConn to 36.7 percent shooting well below its season average of 47.2 percent.
SMU rode the momentum of the energized home crowd to a 7-2 lead in the early minutes before UConn used an eight-point run to move ahead 18-13 with 8:18 remaining.
The Mustangs countered to build their largest lead of the half at 30-24 4 minutes before halftime on the fourth 3-pointer of the half by Moore. But UConn, after uncharacteristically missing its first five 3-point attempts, hit two in the final 4 minutes of the half. That included Boatright's with 4 seconds remaining that gave the Huskies a 33-32 lead.